Prospect’s Trees – the night they came to life

  • https://nature-nurture.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/prospectsTree2.jpg
  • https://nature-nurture.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/prospectsTree3.jpg
  • https://nature-nurture.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/prospectsTree4.jpg
  • https://nature-nurture.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/prospectsTree5.jpg
  • https://nature-nurture.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/prospectsTree6.jpg

“It was a misty evening and the sun went down. The Hawthorn, the Ash, the Crimson King, the Wild Cherry, the Weeping Copper Beech, the Sycamore and the Ancient Oak were ready to come to life...”

Just as we finished the dress rehearsal, we could see the silhouettes of the audience, lanterns glowing, waiting for the show to begin. Betwixt the Sweet Gum and Tulip Trees, Nick Garnett’s moving beast; part metal, part tree, trundled its way across the park, alerting the audience to the start of the show.

During the day, families made lanterns from willow branches and tissue at Battle Library, then, at just gone 6 O’Clock, they gathered at Prospect Park. Following the moving beast, the audience moved from tree to tree. Actor Ben Sandiford and Musician Paul Fryer suddenly appeared, bringing to life the trees through music and verse.

Our research uncovered ancient myths and poems galore, so we decided upon a simple route and a few fine trees and based the entire show on poetry...and a little Druid prose. We realised that all the poetry had something to say about humankind’s deep connection with trees. The Celtic beliefs associated with the Ash, urge the listener to delve into themselves, opening doors to knowledge. We turned this into a spoof corporate training lesson, with a flipchart to boot. But what could we do with Crimson King, or Norway Maple tree? We struggled to find myths and poetry. Then we remembered ‘70s progressive rock band King Crimson. We couldn’t resist! The esoteric words were fitting as the king sang in harmony with the court musician. The Weeping Copper Beech looked rather mournful, so Maya Angelou’s ‘When Great Trees Fall’ seemed fitting. We culminated the show by gathering beneath the Ancient Oak, probably the oldest tree in the Park, at around 450 years. It’s bulbous trunk was lit up in green, to accentuate the lichen. As the audience approached, Paul gently swayed on a swing, whistling softly. Ben astride the enormous trunk, with a poem about strength in the face of adversity.

“Until today, I wasn't sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I've found, with thanks to you
I'm stronger than I ever knew”

Nature Nurture would like to thank performers Paul Fryer of Poco Drom & Benedict Sandiford, Nick Garnet AKA The Red Man Van for withy professionalism and the wonderful pull-along-contraption, Emily Meunier for lantern making and lighting and my lovely mum Rosamond Penney for lending costumes. Thanks to Reading Tree Warden Network who supported the project as part of The Tree Council's National Tree Week. This show as made possible thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund's 'Awards for All' Programme and Battle 'Community First'. Thanks to Liz Allum, Richard Ganpatsingh and Rosamond Penney for the photos.

This is Nature Nurture's first venture into using music and theatre to connect people with Reading's wild spaces...it certainly won't be the last!

Source material for Prospect’s Trees - thank you poets!

The Hawthorn Tree - ‘Trust a Tree’ by Gajanan Mishra's

Trust a tree
Here in tree
You find life
Life is beautiful
See the beauty
Enjoy the life.

Smile and smile
Nothing to weep
So long as
There is a tree
Trust the tree
It is life.

Sing a song
With the tree
If you can
And find the things
You have within
Grace of the tree.

Get everything here
In tree, trust the tree
The tree is life's spring
Summer and rain and also winter
Trust the tree, the tree is
Here only for You.

The Ash Tree - from ‘OGHAM The Celtic Oracle’ by Peter Pracownik and Andy Baggott

The ash tree represents the world tree or axis mundi as it is known in Latin. It has roots deep in the earth and its branches reach upwards to the heavens. It thus represents the connection between the three worlds of the underworld, middle earth, and the spiritual realm. It is also taken to represent the integration of past, present and future.

You are connected to the web of life and your every thought and action reverberates on that web affecting your reality. It is important to integrate spiritual lessons into your physical life so that you "walk your talk." You may face adversity but have the strength and wisdom to overcome any situation provided you draw on all your resources. The key-like fruit of the ash signifies the unlocking of doors to new knowledge that are hidden within you, so when the going gets tough, look inside for the answers and solutions you seek. Stand firm in your beliefs and stay in the eye of the storm rather than being drawn into the conflicts of others.

In 19th Century England and France: If a person had fever or toothache, they buried their finger-nail and toe-nail clippings under an Ash tree because they believed it would help cure the ailment

Crimson King/ Norway Maple - ‘The Court of the Crimson King’ by King Crimson

Listen to the original song here

The rusted chains of prison moons
Are shattered by the sun.
I walk a road, horizons change
The tournament's begun.
The purple piper plays his tune,
The choir softly sing;
Three lullabies in an ancient tongue,
For the court of the crimson king.

The keeper of the city keys
Puts shutters on the dreams.
I wait outside the pilgrim's door
With insufficient schemes.
The black queen chants the funeral march,
The cracked brass bells will ring;
To summon back the fire witch
To the court of the crimson king.

The gardener plants an evergreen
Whilst trampling on a flower.
I chase the wind of a prison ship,
To taste the sweet and sour.
The pattern juggler lifts his hand;
The orchestra begin;
As slowly turns the grinding wheel
In the court of the crimson king.

On soft grey mornings widows cry,
The wise men share a joke.
I run to grasp divining signs
To satisfy the hoax.
The yellow jester does not play
But gently pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the crimson king.
The Wild Cherry Tree by Roxanna
The seed once small and fragile,
The innocence of growth, a innocent tale
Grew into a terrifying image,
A trunk of anger, and branches of fear,
A posture of strength, so severe
A personality of energy, a courageous sight
A heart non-existent, brought about from an endless fight

The mighty wind its only friend,
the challenge it brings, until the end
For when I blows it feels alive.
Mighty branches, swipe the sky,
The rain may fall and the sun may shine
But the wild cherry tree will not resign,
To a life of happiness a life of dawn,
As its when it shines, your bound to fall

Growing its cherry’s rich, ripe and red
Dependant on no-one, held by no threads!
The wild cherry tree stands defiant,
A wall, a mask, on itself reliant,
Wild and strong, it screams out loud,
Standing alone, yet feeling proud!

Weeping Copper Beech - ‘When Great Trees Fall’ by Maya Angelou

Ben Sandiford reading the poem for the show:

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

The Sycamore - ‘Maple Mother’ by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

A lovely poet, based in Holland who shares poetry with children and teachers. Find out about Amy and her latest book ‘Forest Has a Song’.

I am a helicopter tree.
I set wee helicopters

Grow tall.
Don’t be afraid.
Spin seeds from me
to make great shade.
Build branches strong.
Help children climb.
Fly! Float! Flee!
Now is
your time
to seize
a breeze
You’re almost trees.

The Oak Tree by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree's leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke.
How can you still be standing Oak?

The oak tree said, I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs, and make me sway

But I have roots stretched in the earth
Growing stronger since my birth
You'll never touch them, for you see
They are the deepest part of me

Until today, I wasn't sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I've found, with thanks to you
I'm stronger than I ever knew

5 Responses to "Prospect’s Trees – the night they came to life"

  • By Encarni December 4, 2014 - 3:19 pm

    It was great, very entertaining and so well performed. I love this park and it was brilliant. Thank you. Well done!

  • By Louise H December 4, 2014 - 7:50 pm

    Great event! It was a completely new way to look at a familiar setting, very magical with the lights! Really looking forward to similar events. Thanks.

  • […] As you can see it was an exciting evening of ancient trees, King Crimson, lanterns and bowler hats. Read more here on the Nature Nurture blog https://nature-nurture.co.uk/2014/12/prospects-trees/ […]

  • By Ann Marie December 5, 2014 - 10:04 am

    An enchanting evening – we all enjoyed making the laterns and the kids were captivated listening to the poetry!

  • By Jo December 10, 2014 - 7:26 pm

    Surreal and wondrous. Loved the range of poetry, great actors brought it all to life. The kids loved it all but especially making the fire sparkle. Thank you Natalie!

Leave a Reply